Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Uzbek Government Acts to Avert Unrest

On March 27, the Senate or upper house of Uzbekistan’s parliament will meet to discuss the role of local government in implementing a national strategy designed to mitigate the effects of global financial crisis, the official website reports.

Concerned over the growing economic crisis, the Uzbek authorities adopted a package of anti-crisis measures last November. The measures were designed to support local producers, provide subsidised loans to developing businesses, and increase the competitiveness of local enterprises by upgrading their equipment and facilities.

Because of its relative isolation from the outside world, the Uzbek economy experienced the first negative effects of global crisis only recently. Plummeting world prices for cotton and gas drove export revenues down, enterprises began laying off staff, and migrant workers began returning from Russia and other countries.

The government is trying to keep a lid on the kind of unrest that could erupt as a result of economic instability. NBCentral Asia observers say this explains why local government is under scrutiny.

Tashpulat Yoldashev, an Uzbek political analyst based abroad, believes local authorities will be instructed to keep closer watch on the public mood.

“The unstable situation could lead to social upheaval,” said Yoldashev.

Commentators say the district-, town- and regional-level administration do not have powers to deliver economic measures such as supporting producers or offering them tax breaks, as envisaged in the anti-crisis plan. Their chairmen are appointed by the Uzbek president.

The lowest tier of local government is the mahalla or neighbourhood committee, which in theory is a traditional communal institution but was transformed long ago into an arm of the state tasked with spotting individuals who might be politically unreliable or hold dissident views.

“The situation is increasingly tense, so it [government] will engage local authorities in order to get a better grip on events taking place,” said a local commentator.